At St. Mary's our Early Years teaching is the foundation building block for learning across the curriculum. Throughout each of our curriculum guides, you will note that each references our expectations of learning before children enter Key Stage 1.
The curriculum for this phase is taken from the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) statutory framework. We also follow a mapped-out curriculum from the Lion Academy Trust (LAT), so that our teachers and leaders know precisely what pupils should be learning in each half term.
Learning through play is vital to the development of our children. We provide carefully designed activities that encourage pupils to become independent, inquisitive and thoughtful learners.
The three prime areas are:
- Communication and Language
- Physical Development
- Personal, Social and Emotional Development
The specific areas are:
- Understanding the world
- Expressive arts and design
- Our activities reflect the three characteristics of effective teaching and learning.
- Play and exploring – children investigate, experience things and ‘have a go’
- Active learning – children concentrate and develop resilience if they encounter difficulties as well as enjoy successes
- Creating and thinking critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas and develop strategies for doing things
In detail these prime and specific areas are:
- Communication and language development involves giving young children opportunities to experience a rich language environment; to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves; and to speak and listen in a range of situations.
- Physical development involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive; and to develop their co-ordination, control and movement. Children must also be helped to understand the importance of physical activity, and to make healthy choices in relation to food.
- Personal, social and emotional development involves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves, and others; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings; to understand appropriate behaviour in groups; and to have confidence in their own abilities.
- Literacy development involves encouraging children to link sounds and letters and to begin to read and write. Children must be given access to a wide range of reading materials (books, poems, and other written materials) to ignite their interest.
- Mathematics involves providing children with opportunities to develop and improve their skills in counting, understanding and using numbers, calculating simple addition and subtraction problems; and to describe shapes, spaces and measures.
- Understanding the world involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community through opportunities to explore, observe and find out about people, places, technology and the environment.
- Expressive arts and design involves enabling children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials, as well as providing opportunities and encouragement for sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music, movement, dance, role-play, and design and technology
Throughout the Foundation Stage the children are monitored using the Development Matters descriptors. The ‘Foundation Stage Profile’ is a measure of children’s development at the end of the Foundation Stage in the reception class.
Communication & Language - A 'vocabulary-rich' curriculum
On entry, pupils at St. Mary's typically have had little exposure to the English language. Many of our pupils do not have the skills expected to be successful on entry to Nursery or Reception. Because of this, we have developed a curriculum that immerses pupils in a 'language' rich environment - where talk is critical and important to improving children's life chances.
Throughout 2022, our professional development focus has been on improving our EYP (Early Year Practitioners) understanding of the reciprocity of talk. Engaging pupils in meaningful discussion, but meeting them at their own level. (See our Staff CPD handout)
A language-rich environment means:
- Where talk is encouraged and supported - this could be through questions, reframing or topic sentences.
- An environment that isn't 'littered' with vocabulary on the walls - but where the talk prompts children to use language creatively or correctly.
- One built on strong relationships between EYP and child. Where adults may correct pupils to guide their learning and understanding.
Knowledge of vocabulary
In addition to assessing pupils across the global prime areas of learning, since Summer 2022 - our EYFS team are focusing distinctly on pupils' knowledge and use of vocabulary.
Our EYFS team focus on these two dominant strands:
- A breadth of vocabulary knowledge of words and their meaning - rather than literal understanding or a basic knowledge of a word. We refer to how many words can they recognise?
- A depth of vocabulary knowledge - understanding what our children actually know about the words they use. Do they have a precise representation of the word's meaning? E.g. knowing that a bark of a dog is loud - it is angry, aggressive. The child knows that a bark is not a whimper or a cry.
Knowing more and remembering more in EYFS
Children with good quality vocabulary knowledge can:
- Use words in context accurately - understanding the meaning.
- Use their knowledge of vocabulary to decipher meaning in the context of a story (when listening or early reading)
- Retrieve the appropriate meaning to justify and discuss what they know in its context.